Monday, November 9, 2009

How Do We Respond?

Last week, I posted a photo of this banner that was prominently displayed at Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s anti-healthcare reform (and anti-government, anti-Obama, etc.) “press conference” rally at the Capitol:

1If you can’t read the words or make out the image, it says, “National Socialist Health Care Dachau, Germany – 1945” above a photo of a pile of naked bodies.

Think for a second about the comparison being drawn: President Obama’s efforts to extend healthcare coverage to millions of uninsured Americans is being directly compared to the genocide committed by Nazi Germany.

Here is another sign that was displayed at the gathering (and remember, unlike the 9/12 rallies with 70,000 participants [or millions as Fox and the right like to suggest], last week’s rally drew a paltry 3,000 or so):

Nope, no anti-Semitism in that poster (and note that the the family’s name is Rothschilds; if you’re going to hate them, you could at least spell the name right…). Oh, and out of curiosity. If President Obama is a secret Muslim, why would he be taking orders from Jewish financiers?

After my previous post was uploaded, I learned that Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) was one of the speakers at the tea party. Why does this matter? Well, Rep. Cantor is the Republican whip (second-highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives) and he is the only Jewish Republican in Congress (presuming for the sake of argument that Joe Lieberman isn’t really a Republican…). So what did Rep. Cantor have to say about the banner suggesting that the Holocaust is a fair comparison for healthcare reform? Nothing. His spokesperson said simply that the sign was “inappropriate”. And when interviewed and asked specifically about Rush Limbaugh’s comparisons of President Obama to Hitler (the comments were made back in August; Rep. Cantor did not respond to them until now), all that Rep. Cantor could only bring himself to say:

Do I condone the mention of Hitler in any discussion about politics. No, I don’t, because obviously that is something that conjures up images that frankly are not, I think, very helpful.

Here’s the video:

Note that when asked specifically if Limbaugh’s comment was “inappropriate”, Rep. Cantor is unable to simply say, “yes”, let alone come forth with a strong condemnation of Limbaugh’s hate-filled rhetoric.

And, for the record, other Republican members of Congress at the rally, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), have yet to condemn these signs or the messages that they convey.

So let’s compare Rep. Cantor’s views with those of another Jewish member of Congress, Rep. Steve Israel (D-New York):

Here’s what David Harris, President of the National Jewish Democratic Council had to say:

Today’s G.O.P. “Tea Party” on Capitol Hill opposing health insurance reform invoked disgusting Holocaust imagery and outright anti-Semitism. Top Republican Party leaders including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) stood before a crowd that included a banner protesting health care reform and displaying corpses from the Holocaust. Yet another sign charged that “Obama takes his orders from the Rothchilds” [sic]. Such vile invocations of Nazi and Holocaust rhetoric have been condemned in recent weeks by rabbinic movements, The Interfaith Alliance, and The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.

The time has come for Boehner, Cantor, Pence and other G.O.P. leaders—especially those who were present today—to condemn these disgusting comparisons and anti-Semitism. They must tell their base once and for all to cut out this despicable pattern of Holocaust imagery and rhetoric.

Norman Podhoretz recently wrote Why Are Jews Liberals? In his book, Podhoretz asks why Jews have aligned themselves with the Democratic party rather than with Republicans. Perhaps the refusal of Republican leaders, including Jewish Republican leaders, to take a strong stand and condemn the use of Nazi and anti-Semitic rhetoric might have just a little, tiny bit to do with it? Perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that the Republican party is willing not only to accept those who espouse hate, but actually allow them to influence or even dictate policy. And perhaps, just perhaps, it has something to do with a party that views truth and intellectual honesty as mere options.

Update September 17, 2010: Tried to fix a broken image link.

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